Microsoft is readying a smaller, Intel Core i5-based laptop: Report

Microsoft's coming Surface 'Sparti' clamshell laptop could be the latest PC intended to help the company compete with Chromebooks, according to a new report.

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Credit: Microsoft

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For those wondering whether Microsoft might proceed with its usual fall Surface hardware launch, it's looking like the answer is yes. And one of the new PCs likely to headline the potential October 2020 virtual launch event is a 12.5-inch, Intel Core i5-based clamshell laptop codenamed "Sparti," according to a report from Windows Central. (Sparti is a Greek town known for its connection to Sparta.)

The "Sparti" Surface laptop will feature a 12.5-inch display and start at around $500 to $600 for 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, Windows Central says. It will ship with Windows 10 in S Mode, which is Microsoft's version of Windows 10 that restricts users to Microsoft Store apps only (but which users can upgrade from, for free). (Sparti won't/can't ship with Windows 10X because Microsoft isn't yet ready to ship that variant of Windows 10; 10X's availability on single-screen devices is likely around spring 2021.)

The Sparti Surface laptop seemingly would be part of Microsoft's Chromebook-compete strategy, targeted heavily though not exclusively at the education market. Microsoft currently positions its Surface Go 2, a 10.5-inch two-in-one, as its Surface for education and business customers who care about portability and price. The Surface Go 2 starts at $450 for a model without a keyboard.

Microsoft also could launch incrementally updated versions of some of its other Surface devices, such as the Intel-based Surface Pro and Arm-based Surface Pro X devices at a fall hardware event. Microsoft also could potentially release its already announced 85-inch Surface Hub 2S and/or its promised Surface Hub display this fall.

Microsoft officials have said that due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, more people have been looking for and purchasing Windows-based PCs. That's one of the reasons Microsoft officials have said they shifted their strategy with Windows 10X from debuting on new, unproven dual-screen devices to launching first on single-screen PCs.

Microsoft has not yet invited press and analysts to a virtual fall Surface event. Last year, Microsoft's fall event was on Oct. 2. At that event, Microsoft launched the Surface Pro 7, Surface Laptop 3, Surface Pro X, Surface Earbuds, and announced plans for Surface Neo and Duo. Surface Neo, which was a dual-screen device slated to run 10X, has been tabled for now. Surface Duo, Microsoft's dual-screen Android mobile device, starts shipping this week on Sept. 10 in the US.